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Old 05-02-2012, 07:14 AM   #1
mesaSteeler
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Default LB on the inside track at NFL Draft

LB on the inside track at NFL Draft
May 2, 2012 12:00 am
By Gerry Dulac / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/...-draft-633964/

As an undersized linebacker at the University of Miami, Sean Spence drew comparisons to Jonathan Vilma for his speed, quickness, athleticism and ability to make tackles. And his stature.

Spence was a sideline-to-sideline tackle machine for the Hurricanes, becoming the first Miami player since Vilma -- and only sixth in school history -- to register 100 or more tackles in back-to-back seasons. Like Vilma, who is 6 feet 1, Spence didn't seem to have any problems seeing over the line of scrimmage, either.

Even if he is two inches shorter than Vilma.

"I love Sean Spence," NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock said before the draft. "Someone is going to get a hell of a player."

That turned out to be the Steelers, who made him their third-round selection in the NFL draft.

Even if he isn't the type of player they needed to fill a hole in their 3-4 defense. Not if they were looking for a long-term replacement for James Farrior.

Linebacker coach Keith Butler said Spence will be used as the "mack" inside linebacker in their defense, a position manned by Lawrence Timmons. At 5 feet 11, 233 pounds, he is not ideally suited to play the "buck" position that Farrior filled since 2002.

"I wouldn't call him a buck, no," Butler said. "The buck linebacker has to be a little bit bigger and take on the guards more. We cover up our linebackers pretty good. What I mean by that is, we let them scrape and run to football a little bit more instead of coming downhill and taking on isolations."

Farrior, though, played at a weight lighter than Spence the past couple seasons. After once weighing as much as 245 pounds when he first arrived, Farrior played closer to 225 and sometimes as low as 218 late in the season -- thinking the lighter weight would help him maintain his speed as he got older.

The Steelers were prepared to draft Farrior's long-term replacement in the first round, but when Stanford guard David DeCastro slipped to the 24th overall spot they drafted him ahead of Alabama inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower. The New England Patriots quickly traded up and took Hightower at No. 25.

The Steelers waited until the third round to draft Spence, who played at outside linebacker in 39 of the 40 games he started over four seasons at Miami. The Steelers believe his speed and athleticism more than make up for his lack of height.

"The day of the [isolation] with the middle linebacker is almost gone," Butler said. "Everybody is using tight ends as fullbacks and sometimes they use them when trying to lead and sometimes they don't. A lot of stuff today is misdirection and trying to fool you or outnumber you one way and then give you a different look coming back the other way.

"A lot of that requires the ability to read from the linebackers nowadays, not so much to get down and stuff a hole. Sometimes you have to do it on the goal line when you have to take on a big running back, but we're taking on Ray Rice, we're not taking on Jerome Bettis anymore."

That doesn't seem to matter to Spence, who had 111 tackles in 2010 and 106 in '11 when he was named first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference. All he is focused on is coming in and making the team, even if most of his action will be on special teams.

"When I met with coach Butler at the combine, he told me that no rookie linebacker came in and started; they had to work their way in on special teams," Spence said. "I am all for it. Anything I can do for the team, I am willing to help, whether that's coming in and contributing on special teams, I am all for it.

"It's great to come to an organization that always competes for a championship. Having a chance to play here is just a tremendous feeling."

Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com and Twitter @gerrydulac.
First Published 2012-05-02 04:08:27
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Old 05-02-2012, 09:29 AM   #2
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Default Re: LB on the inside track at NFL Draft

Did Kendrell Bell come in and start as a rookie?
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Old 05-02-2012, 09:50 AM   #3
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Default Re: LB on the inside track at NFL Draft

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Originally Posted by mesaSteeler View Post
"I wouldn't call him a buck, no," Butler said. "The buck linebacker has to be a little bit bigger and take on the guards more. We cover up our linebackers pretty good. What I mean by that is, we let them scrape and run to football a little bit more instead of coming downhill and taking on isolations."
This is what confused me a bit at first with the pick. I think if the hope is that Spence and Timmons will end up inside together in the future...then Timmons will have to move over because Spence isnt big enough to play the Buck LB. I think Spence will be a really good weakside ILB in the 3-4.

Also, while the article says he draws comparisons to Jonathan Vilma........at SF, he is the next Ray Lewis. Fit him for a mustard yellow blazer already.
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Old 05-02-2012, 10:43 AM   #4
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Default Re: LB on the inside track at NFL Draft

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This is what confused me a bit at first with the pick. I think if the hope is that Spence and Timmons will end up inside together in the future...then Timmons will have to move over because Spence isnt big enough to play the Buck LB. I think Spence will be a really good weakside ILB in the 3-4.

Also, while the article says he draws comparisons to Jonathan Vilma........at SF, he is the next Ray Lewis. Fit him for a mustard yellow blazer already.
I'll be thrilled if he's the next Vilma
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Old 05-02-2012, 12:20 PM   #5
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Default Re: LB on the inside track at NFL Draft

from watching this kid play, one of the things I find most impressive about him is he's rarely ever fooled. play actions, misdirections rarely ever get him to jump. his instincts are amazing, and this is the kind of stuff you can't coach someone. They have it or they don't, and he definitely does. also the fact that despite his small size, he's extremely good at shedding blockers. this guy was a good pick.
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Old 05-02-2012, 06:29 PM   #6
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Default Re: LB on the inside track at NFL Draft

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from watching this kid play, one of the things I find most impressive about him is he's rarely ever fooled. play actions, misdirections rarely ever get him to jump. his instincts are amazing, and this is the kind of stuff you can't coach someone. They have it or they don't, and he definitely does. also the fact that despite his small size, he's extremely good at shedding blockers. this guy was a good pick.
He is either instinctive or spends a lot of time in film room and is a smart football player. Have to remember, he is still around 230lbs or so isnt he?? Not that small, just a bit short.

The thing I like about him over Kendricks is that he always takes a forward read step and moves towards the football. Kendricks seemed to stand on the inside and wait for plays to come to him, or hop around in place.

Mycal Kendricks only played ILB for a year I think, so it makes sense that Spence is ahead of him in that regard.
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Old 05-02-2012, 10:37 PM   #7
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Default Re: LB on the inside track at NFL Draft

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I'll be thrilled if he's the next Vilma
Not too much like Vilma or he will be serving a one year suspension for funding a bounty program.


Spence was graded higher then Kendricks at the NFL.com site which got very little wrong in their rankings of players and where they should go.

The next LB was taken 19 picks later in the 4th and it was Nigel Bradham rated 11 points lower then Spence on a 100 scale. Think B- player to D+ player.
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